Environmental factors

Vitiligo and psoriasis: Links, causes, and symptoms

Vitiligo and psoriasis are autoimmune conditions that both affect the skin. In some people, they occur together. Research into why the two are connected is still ongoing.

Vitiligo and psoriasis are chronic autoimmune conditions that occur together in some instances.

With vitiligo, the immune system attacks the skin cells responsible for skin color. This causes patches of skin to lose their typical pigmentation.

Psoriasis is also an autoimmune condition that affects the skin. People with psoriasis experience inflammation, plaques, or scales across their skin’s surface. Affected skin areas may feel as though they are itching, stinging, or even burning.

This article will review the current research on vitiligo and psoriasis, including the potential link between these two conditions.

Research suggests that there may be a link between psoriasis and vitiligo. However, research is still ongoing.

One 2017 study suggests a specific point, or locus, on a gene that may be responsible for both conditions. This point is in the major histocompatibility complex (MHC).

The MHC genes direct the body to produce specific proteins. These proteins help the immune system function properly. People with vitiligo and psoriasis share a similar MHC gene locus. This genetic similarity may partially explain how these two conditions are related.

Some people develop vitiligo and psoriasis at the same time. However, this is a relatively rare occurrence.

Common inflammatory pathways may play a role in the development of psoriasis and vitiligo together. Certain environmental factors may also play a role.

Scientists know that vitiligo and psoriasis can occur together. However, more studies are needed to fully understand how and why this happens.

A person’s family history and physical environment may make them more susceptible to an autoimmune condition. This section will examine the causes of vitiligo and psoriasis in further detail.

Vitiligo

In vitiligo, skin cells called melanocytes die. These skin cells are responsible for giving skin and hair their color.

The body’s immune system may confuse melanocytes for foreign cells. The immune system may target and kill these cells to protect the body from invaders. However, experts do not completely understand why this only happens in some people.

People with other autoimmune conditions are more likely to develop vitiligo. And people with a family history of vitiligo are at a higher risk of developing the condition. Approximately one-fifth of people with the condition have a close family member who also has it.

Other factors that may play a role include:

  • stress
  • exposure to UV radiation
  • exposure to certain chemicals

Psoriasis

In psoriasis, the immune system also attacks skin cells throughout the body. Because of this, the body produces skin cells more frequently.

These excess cells build up across the skin’s surface. This causes the appearance of plaques commonly associated with psoriasis.

Psoriasis tends to run in families. This indicates that there is a genetic component behind this condition.

People who have psoriasis may experience flare-ups after exposure to specific triggers, including:

  • infections
  • certain medications
  • smoking

More investigation is needed to untangle the specific and individual causes of psoriasis. However, scientists know that a series of genetic and environmental factors are at play.

Vitiligo and psoriasis are both autoimmune conditions that affect the skin. However, their symptoms generally differ.

Vitiligo

People in the early stages of vitiligo may experience a small, light-colored spot on their skin. Over time, this spot may continue to lighten until it becomes completely white.

Some people with vitiligo develop only one or two light patches across their bodies. Other people may experience large patches that grow and lighten over time.

The main symptom of vitiligo is skin lightening. People may also experience itching and inflammation. However, this is relatively uncommon.

Learn more about what vitiligo looks like.

Psoriasis

There are many different types of psoriasis. Symptoms differ based on the type and severity of psoriasis.

Plaque psoriasis is the most common type of psoriasis. Up to 90% of people with psoriasis have this subtype. They may experience scaly skin or patches of thick skin called plaques that grow and spread over time.

Other forms of psoriasis may cause symptoms such as tiny bumps spreading across the skin or red patches of skin that look sore.

In rare cases, psoriasis may cause pus-filled bumps that spread rapidly.

Learn more about what psoriasis looks like.

Modern treatments do not fully cure vitiligo or psoriasis. However, several treatment options are available to help people manage these conditions.

Vitiligo

People with vitiligo should take extra care to apply sunscreen. This can help prevent skin from further damage. Some other treatment options include:

According to the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery (ASDS), micro-pigmentation is another promising treatment for restoring skin pigmentation.

During this procedure, a medical professional inserts small pigment granules below the skin’s surface. The implanted pigment helps blend in areas affected by vitiligo.

Psoriasis

Treating psoriasis is a highly individual process. Some common treatments for psoriasis include:

The American Academy of Dermatology Association (AADA) also explains that moisturizing can help improve skin texture and relieve discomfort. Some people with psoriasis also find relief from over-the-counter products that include ingredients such as coal tar or hydrocortisone.

Both conditions

One treatment that can help with both conditions is phototherapy. This treatment uses a combination of chemical treatment with ultraviolet light. It can reduce the symptoms of psoriasis and encourage repigmentation for vitiligo.

In rare cases where vitiligo and psoriasis occur together, ustekinumab is a newer treatment option that may show promise. This drug targets the proteins involved in the body’s immune response.

Preliminary research suggests the medication may improve psoriasis legions and skin areas affected by vitiligo. Future studies may uncover additional treatment options for people with both skin conditions.

Studies suggest that people with one autoimmune disease may be more likely to develop another.

For example, people with psoriasis are more likely to have autoimmune conditions such as:

However, scientists do not fully understand why this is the case. While people who have vitiligo or psoriasis may have a higher risk for other autoimmune diseases, future studies may help explain this phenomenon.

Vitiligo and psoriasis are autoimmune conditions that affect the skin. Vitiligo changes skin pigmentation, and psoriasis causes uncomfortable patches of skin to appear and spread.

People with vitiligo and psoriasis are at a higher risk of developing other autoimmune conditions.

People with either or both skin conditions should speak with a doctor to learn more about health risks and treatment options. With a supportive medical team, people with vitiligo and psoriasis can manage their symptoms.

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